Syrian voices from Jordan

Writing workshop at Zaatari camp.

Voice is a blog that shares stories from Syrian refugees in Jordan; it is also a larger project implemented by the local NGO ARDD-Legal Aid and Oxfam aiming at “maintaining and restoring to refugees their sense of dignity through highlighting their voices as active agents of change instead of passive recipients of aid.” The project works on improving access to quality information for refugees, and assists them in expressing theirs needs and telling their narratives. Several groups of men and women were trained on communication and reporting skills both within the Za’atari camp and outside. Below, we’re republishing a selection of their articles and poetry. A huge archive of personal stories can be found on the blog.


A story of a refugee

We would always wonder about the actions and candid behavior from previous refugees. By previous I mean here the Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, because now we, the Syrians, have become the refugees.

Only now have we realized the meaning of the word refugee. This word we used to utter like any other seven letter word, but now it has a different meaning and a different taste.

I miss my land and my house that is now destroyed. I miss the place where I left my memories in every corner; the memories of my husband and my children. I miss my bed and my pillow, where since I left it I haven’t been getting much sleep. I miss my kitchen that was full of different types of plates and cutlery that I went through a lot to collect.

I miss my big library that was bursting with all kinds of university text books, religious books, children’s books, novels, and those American scientific journals translated into Arabic. Those journals that I always threatened my husband with selling on the road if he didn’t read them all.

I miss my children’s toys, and their rooms that gave them a sense of stability in their lives. They always come to me and say: “Mom, please get us our beds so that we can sleep on them. Also get us our plastic swimming pool and our desks.”

All I can say is goodbye to my beautiful home; it’s now buried along with nine years of my life. Years I spent organizing it corner by corner, until it became my heart, my little home, and my safe place.

How did I end up broken in another country? In a country where its people also suffer from economic woes; how can we make it here?

When I first arrived in Jordan I spent days inside the house; I didn’t want to go outside or meet anyone. I felt as though the word ‘refugee’ was written on my back, and only now do I know what it means. Do you?

But I will not be overcome with despair. We have gone through a lot, but we didn’t give up. On the contrary, we stood strong and faced reality with all our strength to overcome our crisis.


Men writing in the Zaatari refugee camp

As young as a flower

Once, my friend said to me: “When I read your writings I can’t help but laugh, because I feel like you’ve been through a lot, but when I look at you I see that you are still so young, you’re as young as a flower.”

That term made me think; how do we measure if someone is as young as a flower, or as old as thorns?

Is it through those flipping pages of a calendar, and through the years that are running past us like an hourglass that lost its rhythm? Or is our age determined by the number of battles we have undertaken with the unknown? By the number of wins or the number of our defeats? Is it measured by the moments of joy that passed by our souls and we barely paid attention to, or by the amount of sadness that invaded us like a skilled warrior; leaving nothing behind?

There are a million ways to measure our age, but regardless of that, I am sure that I have surpassed the age of being a flower. Since I left my country, I have become as old as thorns.


Tent in the Zaatari refugee camp.

Syrians or martians?

A lot of the time we hear, while walking in the streets,

“He’s Syrian!”

“They’re Syrians!”

“She’s Syrian!”

What is so strange about it, what changed?

We’ve always walked in this country before becoming refugees!

Yes refugees! Is this the word that made us seem strangers in an Arab country? Are we from Mars?

Why all this painful talk? Did we choose to become refugees or was it forced on us?

As far as I know, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria are all called Levant.

There are no differences between us; we almost speak the same dialect, our Dabke and our cuisine are similar.

Did you forget the tabouleh, kibbeh, ful and fatteh

Don’t laugh

Did you forget that the Orontes River irrigates Hamah and Lebanon?

Did you forget that Yarmouk River irrigates Dara and Jordan?

Did you forget that there is a sea that links Syria and Palestine?

Did you forget a pain that connects us?

Don’t let the word “Refugee” separate us, please!

We are from Syria and not from Mars

Abeer Nasr Allah


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